Second of a four-part travel series
Our driver, "Honey," a young gentleman with a turban of Sikh faith,
always so gracious and accommodating with a happy demeanor, picked us up from our
hotel. Gary (my husband, the Edge Life publisher) and I were ready to begin our next
stage of our journey.
Industrialization was very evident as soon as we reached the outskirts of Delhi.
Massive industrial complexes and huge office buildings, most of them fairly new,
were built within the last 10 years. India has the fourth-largest economy in purchasing
power and the second fastest-growing economy in the world. According to the latest
statistics, the population of India is about 1.1 billion, second only to China. The
people of India speak more than 1,000 dialects. Indian dress and culture varies from
state to state, each with unique charm.
There was a marked difference in cultures as soon as we entered the state of Rajasthan,
of which Jaipur is the capital. Seventy percent of Indians live in rural areas, and
agriculture is a very important part of India, especially in this region. We saw
an occasional farmer in a carriage pulled by camels. Camels are more prevalent in
northern India. Rajasthan has an annual Camel Festival in January of each year. Most
of the rural farming communities have little or no modern farming equipment; most
of the tilling and other farm labor is done manually. Woman in their colorful clothes
were quite a sight to behold in the fields.
We arrived in Jaipur, "The Pink City," famous for its colorful culture,
forts, palaces and lakes – and quite renowned for its semi-precious stones, polishing
and jewelry design industry. The city basks in the glory of a rich and eventful past.
Jaipur – built upon scientific principles and planned according to Shilpa Shastra,
an ancient Hindu method of architecture – was created in fewer than eight years
and is considered one of India’s best-planned cities. Jaipur was painted pink in
1876 as part of the celebration to host King Edward VII, the British monarch of that
era and Emperor of India. The color was chosen after several experiments to cut down
the intense glare from the blazing rays of the sun. The effect remains to this day.
City Gate, one of the many entrances to the city, is very ornately designed with
great architectural detail. The demeanor of the city is one of welcoming joy. Our
experience in this city was of great fun and laughter, and we had a sense of familiarity
Amber Fort, which was the capital of the Rajput Kings, is now a historical site.
It was constructed of red sandstone, like most of the other palaces and historical
buildings in and around Jaipur. We rode an elephant up a steep driveway toward the
buildings, which housed the living quarters for the kings in an earlier period and
includes administrative buildings and a temple dedicated to the Goddess Kali. One
of the priests gifted us with a garland and placed it around our necks. It was so
touching and felt physically and spiritually energizing. We left the garlands on
for most of the day as it felt very comforting to do so.
We continued our tour at Sawai Jai Singh’s Chandra Mahal (Moon Palace), better known
as The City Palace, the official residence of the royal family. It was built in 1732
by Maharaja Jai Singh. The royal family lives in a portion of this palace; outer
courtyards and the ground floor and halls have been converted into a museum. The
present royal family, the Maharaja Sawai Bhawani Singhji and his family, have hosted
many dignitaries, including Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip, Prince Charles
and Lady Diana, other royalty from European, Asian and Middle Eastern countries,
Jacqueline Kennedy and President Clinton.
The palace is filled with great works of art, as well as an observatory designed
by Maharaja Jai Singh in 1728 to satisfy his passion for astronomy. The museum exhibits
a rare collection of ancient manuscripts, portraits, chandeliers, a golden throne,
a fascinating range of priceless miniature paintings in the Rajput style, exquisite
antique carpets and various other artifacts representing the magnificence and glory
of each reigning era.
Gary and I had the opportunity for a brief consultation with the court astrologer,
who was very accurate in his reading. One of the Indian newspapers noted his accuracy,
and he has become quite renowned in his field. If you ever visit India, you may enjoy
a reading from this astrologer. Our tour guide overheard a portion of my reading
and was so impressed that he touched my feet and held his hands to his lips as a
form of respect, which is normally given to people close to God. I felt greatly embarrassed
with such homage and at the same time greatly humbled. Gary’s readings also were
very honoring for all the wonderful work he has done for the community in bridging
the gap between the mainstream and spirituality.
We ended the day at a restaurant that features folk dancing and an earlier style
of court dancers who entertained the reigning kings of that period. The dancers were
elaborately and colorfully dressed, and the music was very enchanting and hypnotic.
A young dancer chose people from the audience and took them center stage to dance
with her. I had my turn, and the dance ended with great clapping of hands from guests
after an intense five minutes of juggling and twisting. Then it was Gary’s turn.
He was in his element and was delightfully funny and quite hilarious with his antics.
He was so overwhelmed with the dancer that he tipped her quite handsomely and she
continued serenading him for the rest of the evening. BIG BECK! WHAT A TREAT! It
was a real fun evening for all of us.
Next month: A visit to Agra and one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj